[5 April 2005]
Boston-based Celtic punk outfit Dropkick Murphys are working on a new album for this summer. But to satisfy its rabid flag-waving, beer and whiskey-soaked fan base, the band has managed to put out this new collection of songs that only a diehard fan would’ve had already. A variety of b-sides, contributions to various compilations, and other split singles, this collection contains three of the four items mentioned in the title. The only thing it doesn’t contain much anything of is the crap quotient. There are a few choice covers that will take a few listens to get a handle on, but generally it is a good collection of tunes that only this band would be able to pull off without much of a hitch.
The first of these tracks is “21 Guitar Salute”, taken from a 2002 Face to Face compilation from Vagrant. It’s basically a high-octane punk tune that contains little of the Celtic touches they’ve become known for. What is here are the sing-along chorus and party-inducing riffs. The guitars naturally kick in for the bridge but it’s an obligatory solo, quickly snipped before it gets its footing. The bagpipes mark the tune’s homestretch as lyrics refer to a “bloody revolution in the air”. An odd ending? Perhaps, but it does work. More challenging to wrap your head around will be the cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”. Staying true to the song, the lyrics are almost squealed out as if the lead singer is trying to attempt his impersonation of Tom Waits doing the number.
The problem with such collections is that there is rarely a workable tracklisting that would make the album sound somewhat cohesive. This is a perfect example, as “On the Attack” is a brutal hardcore punk tune that seems to be the antithesis of the previous song. A somewhat gentler tune would bridge the gap between the two. It is one of those that grow on you with each increase in the volume range. “You’re a Rebel” is more of the mid-tempo rock punk stuff that loses its steam halfway through, making it an average listen at best. Faring better is the pleasing and fist-pumping “Watch Your Back”, which takes no prisoners from the get-go. And go it does! Think of the Pogues backed by Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and you should get the gist of the track. And speaking of the Pogues, Shane MacGowan’s original band Nipple Erectors (The Nips) are covered with “Vengeance”, sounding like it was lifted perfectly from the Rancid school of rock. The highlight when it comes to covers, though, is the surprisingly strong rendition of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll)”, a version even Angus might don a kilt for and a bagpipe in the heart of the ditty. And “Alcohol” is not too shabby, either—a tune that mentions the preference for imbibing than having sex.
That isn’t to say the entire album is a winner. I mean, do you really need to hear a freakin’ dance remix of “Pipebomb on Lansdowne”? Not a thumping house beat but it just seems too forced from the beginning. “Informer” also comes off like a haphazard, unfocused garage tune without any real beat or bite aside from the occasional “Oi! Oi! Oi!” But they do give props to the Boston Bruins (remember hockey?) with a little jingle entitled “The Nutrocker”, which is a tune they would hear growing up after “Hogan’s Heroes” and prior to the Bruins game coming on. A few spots in the album have the impression that it’s more filler than anything else, especially on “Never Again”. But for each one of the clunkers there is a highlight, especially on the rockabilly punk feel oozing out of “Halloween”. And the homestretch begins with the rousing, swaying waltz of “Wild Rover”. It’s the type of song you’re looking for shoulders to put your arms over and steins to clink as MacGowan makes a guest appearance on the lovely ditty. That should have closed the album, but three more songs appear. It’s not for everyone but gives you a taste of why the Dropkick Murphys are still easily hitting their strides.